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Microsoft can help you do amazing things with your data in the cloud! Here are five examples to help you get started. If you’d like more information about using the cloud to get the most from your data, please join us for the upcoming Microsoft Data Amp event on April 19 at 8 AM Pacific. The online event will showcase how data is the nexus between application innovation and artificial intelligence—how data and analytics powered by the most trusted and intelligent cloud can help companies differentiate and out innovate their competition.

1: Build data-driven apps that learn and adapt

Applications show intelligence when they can spot trends, react to events, predict outcomes or recommend choices—often leading to richer customer experiences, improved business process, or addressing issues before they arise. The three key ingredients to creating an intelligent app are:

  1. Ingest data in real time
  2. Query across historical and real-time data
  3. Analyze patterns and make predictions with machine learning

clip_image002With Azure, you can make your applications intelligent by establishing feedback loops, and applying big data and machine learning techniques to classify, predict, or otherwise analyze explicit and implicit signals. Today, apps for consumers and enterprises can deliver greater customer or business benefit by learning from user behavior and other signals.

Pier 1 Imports launched a mobile-friendly pier1.com, making shopping online easier. It enabled the selection of delivery options like direct shipment, picking up products in the local store, or a white-glove delivery option from any mobile device. “Although the Pier 1 Imports brand is the same as it has been for more than 50 years, we are continually getting better at identifying what our customer wants, using Microsoft Azure Machine Learning and resulting data insights,” Sharon Leite, EVP Sales and Customer Experience.

Get started with sample code

If you want to learn more about building an intelligent app, try the AdventureWorks Ski App. This sample application can be used to demonstrate the value of building intelligence into an existing application. Learn more by going to GitHub and watching the application being built here.

2: Run big cognition for human-like intelligence over petabyte scale

Microsoft’s Cognitive Services APIs allow developers to integrate vision, speech, language, knowledge and search APIs into your apps. To run these services over petabyte scale, we’ve integrated the capabilities directly into Azure Data Lake. You can join emotions from image content with any other type of data you have and do incredibly powerful analytics and intelligence over it. This is what we call “Big Cognition.” This goes beyond extracting one piece of cognitive information at a time, understanding an emotion or whether there’s an object in an image. Big Cognition joins all the extracted cognitive data with other types of data, so you can do some really powerful analytics with it.

On a global scale, Azure Data Lake is also being used by Carnival Corp., the world’s largest leisure travel company, which has a total of over 100 ships across 10 global cruise line brands, at its Fleet Operations Centers. “We chose to partner with Microsoft to kick off a project of the Internet of Things, because it was strategic for us to rely on a platform that would allow us to collect, analyse, and display data from sensors in a simple, integrated and immediate way on our ships and make them available both to the officers on board and to our operations centre on the ground,” says Franco Caraffi, IT Marine Systems Director of Costa Cruises.

Get started with sample code

We have demonstrated Big Cognition at Microsoft Ignite and PASS Summit, by showing a demo in which we used U-SQL inside Azure Data Lake Analytics to process a million images and understand what’s inside those images. You can watch this demo here and try it yourself using a sample project on GitHub or discover more ways to get started with Azure Data Lake on GitHub.

3: Deliver <10ms latency to any customer, anywhere on the planet

With today’s globally connected world, developers and organizations alike have three simple requirements for their customer-facing applications: millisecond performance across global distribution, and application availability—without hard tradeoffs. NoSQL can be a great technology for tackling these tough challenges, especially when facing increasing data volume and variety.

Most NoSQL technologies force customers to make binary choices among global performance, availability, and transactional consistency. With Azure DocumentDB, Microsoft’s fully managed NoSQL database service, you get four tunable consistency levels to reduce friction related to tradeoffs and unlock new application patterns previously not possible—without ever trading off availability or <10ms latency, which are guaranteed. For example, session consistency gives an ideal blend of performance and consistency for multitenant applications. Tenants are able to achieve strong consistency within the scope of their own session, without having to trade off performance for other tenants. IoT devices emit events at an extremely high rate. Thus, a scale-out database is required to handle heavy write ingestion to persist the full fidelity of unaggregated streams of events. The events from each generation of device looks slightly different as new capabilities and sensors are added. DocumentDB can uniquely ingest a high write of events with varying schema with automatic indexing—and serve it back out using rich queries with low latency, enabling applications to react with real-time anomaly detection.

Citrix delivers solutions used by more than 400,000 organizations and more than 100 million individuals globally. The Citrix web portal was getting a lot of traffic, which was good news, but it was running into challenges integrating the web identity into its SaaS portals. It turned to Azure Service Fabric and DocumentDB to run its Citrix Identity Platform to deliver against its availability, durability, and performance requirements.

Get started with sample code

There are so many great code samples available on GitHub for DocumentDB that we aggregated our 10 favorite GitHub samples into a single blog for you. Check out these samples across .NET, Node.js, and Python for an array of app scenarios and start playing with DocumentDB today.

4: Serve up a first-class search experience with just a few lines of code

Azure Search is a cloud search-as-a-service solution that delegates server and infrastructure management to Microsoft, leaving you with a ready-to-use service with which, using only a few lines of code, you can populate your data and then easily add a first-class search experience to your web, mobile, or cognitive-based application. Azure Search allows you to easily add a robust search experience to any application using a simple REST API or .NET SDK without managing search infrastructure or becoming an expert in search.

autoTRADER.ca, Canada’s largest automobile search site, uses Azure Search to help dealers advertise and inventory products, determine the best pricing, and provide market data on which vehicles are in high demand. “We’re really excited about using Azure Search for marketplace. It gives us an opportunity to provide better and better services to our customers with instant, seamless experiences across all devices,” says Shane Sullivan, director of Software Engineering.

Get started with sample code

Try the First Response app code on GitHub—an online collaboration platform built to support first responders—which lets police, fire fighters, and paramedics share critical data with each other in real time. This app scenario and demo and toolkit combine App Service, DocumentDB, and Search with Xamarin support for cross-device support into a real-time mobile app.

5: Scale your business, protect your margins

For software builders with existing packaged apps looking to also extend their business to SaaS or those building a new business app as SaaS, the number one question we get is, “how do I run and grow my business on a cloud while ensuring operating costs don’t accidently consume my margins?” When we dig into this app pattern with customers, the concern really boils down to how to manage the costs associated with isolating and managing your customers’ data while ensuring each customer gets the best performance despite varying performance demands. There are two challenges as a result of this: First, managing and maintaining an isolated database for each customer would require more staff as you grow; second, over-provisioning resources to ensure spikes in demand don’t cause a poor experience and overspending on operating costs. We dove into this problem with customers and as a result introduced SQL Database Elastic Pools—a unique solution to help you manage thousands of databases as one while maintaining isolation and security at dramatic cost savings.

SQL Database Elastic Pools are a simple, cost-effective solution for managing and scaling multiple databases that have varying and unpredictable usage demands. The databases in an elastic pool are on a single Azure SQL Database server and share a set number of resources at a set price.

SnelStart makes popular financial- and business-management software for small and medium-sized businesses in the Netherlands. Its 55,000 customers are serviced by a staff of 110 employees, including an IT staff of 35. By moving from desktop software to a software-as-a-service (SaaS) offering built on Azure, SnelStart made the most of built-in services, automating management using the familiar environment in C#, and optimizing performance and scalability by neither over- or under-provisioning businesses using elastic pools. “By using elastic pools, we can optimize performance based on the needs of our customers, without over-provisioning. If we had to provision based on peak load, it would be quite costly. Instead, the option to share resources between multiple, low-usage databases allows us to create a solution that performs well and is cost effective,” says Henry Been, solution architect.

Get started with sample code

We built this Contoso shopkeeper app to demonstrate just how easy it is to build a multitenant SaaS app using SQL Database Elastic Pools. You’ll see how easy it is to scale out to support your growing customer base with no scheme changes required for your app and also how easy it is to manage many databases as one.

Azure can help you do amazing things with data in the cloud. Organizations have used Azure to transform their business, providing compelling customer experiences while managing costs. Try one of these five new amazing things you can do with Azure today! And to learn more, join us for the upcoming Microsoft Data Amp event on April 19 at 8 AM Pacific.